Friday, December 26, 2014

As we approach the new year. we must decide how to approach what it brings.

John 10:9-10King James Version (KJV)

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

2014 is nearly over (can you believe it?). 2015 is nearly here. If you are like the rest of us 2014 has brought with it, it's share of joy and pain, good times and bad times, revelations both good and bad. Every year before this one has done the same.
With New Years day approaching, so many celebrate because, they believe, that somehow "this year will be different." "This will be the year where I finally get things right. This year will be different and I will leave my past behind. This year will give me a clean slate."
The only true hope of a clean slate is through the blood of Jesus. 
But, what about those of us that are born again? Can this year truly be different for us? No....but, yes.
Read the verse above. Jesus came to give us life, and that more abundantly. YEA, we scream! That's what I want! Then, we complain when we get it. Let me explain.
I learned this from a comedian named Mark Lowery. Life is not just good times. It also has bad times. In fact, life is a roller coaster ride that contains times of climbing the hill, times on the top of the hill, times of stressful falling down the hill, some flat valley time, all repeated over and over again. 
So, when we become Christians, guess what? Life's cycles just became more abundant. We have more hills to climb, more mountain tops, more times where life seems to throw us off the mountain, more valleys. Yet, we scream and holler and moan and groan about the abundant life that Jesus has given us.
None of us truly know what 2015 will bring us. Only Jesus does. So, what are we to do. 
The only clean slate we can gain in this new year (besides forgiveness of sins), is our approach to the events that will surely be coming our way. So, instead of whining and complaining, here are some things we can resolve to do that will truly make 2015 better. They may not change what we go through, but they will change our ability to cope with what comes.
1) Let's resolve to spend more time connecting with Jesus.
Time is a premium these days. Many things vie for our attention. Friends, Family, work, school, entertainment, trials, tribulations, etc. Of all the things in life that we must choose to spend valuable time with, Jesus is by far the most important. 
He is our hope. He is our strength. He is our light. He is our safety net. We can gain the whole world, but without Jesus, we will lose our souls. So, lets resolve to spend more time studying his word. 
The answers to all of life's problems can be found in his word, the KJV Bible. As we study to show ourselves approved unto God, he shares with us valuable insights that will guide us through the many pitfalls and mine fields of this life. To ignore his word is to ignore our second most valuable resource, God's road map through life. 
Yes, I said second most important. What is the first? PRAYER!!!!! Bible study is where we discover who he is. Prayer is where we directly interact with him. Bible study will help us to remain doctrinally sound, but prayer is where we build the relationship with the divine that we need to obey what we find in his word. 
2) When good times come our way, praise the Lord for them and enjoy them. Enjoy fellowship. Enjoy times of plenty. Praise Jesus for all the good things in our lives: our families, our spouses, our jobs, our churches, the good things he allows us to be a part of, the blessings he brings our way. 
3) The word says that "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12) Living with Jesus is awesome. To know that the creator of the universe is our divine daddy is great. But, because we live for him, the world will hate us. Governments give more grace to evil men than they show to Christians. Employers allow ungodliness but come down on us when we stand against it. Even if we quietly try and live our Christian lives in our own little corner and leave others alone, the world notices how we live and tries to stand against us. 
So, our attitude should not be one of surprise and anguish when these trials come. Rather, we should pray for those that spitefully use us. Love our enemies anyway. Pray for them in the face of the persecution they bring. Do not bow our knees to their ungodliness. 
Some of our persecution may come from family and friends. Some of it may come from other Christians who don't yet understand why we live the way we do. 
Love them anyway. Pray for them anyway. But do not sway from what God has told you to do. 
4) Always seek to meet every situation, good or bad, with the grace of God. This will see us through and will help us to keep a good attitude no matter what situation we find ourselves in. 
So, friends, lets change our approach to the new year and resolve to meet everything with Jesus. May the Lord bless you and yours in 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When God (seemingly) disrespects us.

John 9 King James Version (KJV)

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Imagine that you were born blind. Imagine that you lived in New Testament times and were born blind. Then, this could be your story. 
Verse 1 states that Jesus came upon a man that was born blind. Aren't we all born blind? No, you say? Jesus said in John 3 that unless we are born again we cannot see the kingdom of God. Ahh, you say. We are all born spiritually blind. 
So, what hope do we have of a good life? Certainly, the blind man in our passage today had no hope of a good life. There were no social programs to help him learn a trade. There were no government checks and government housing to aid his living. There were no trained seeing eye dogs available  to him. He probably didn't even have a salvation army type bell to use to draw attention to his plight. (A bell would require money to make. Money that he didn't have.) All he could do was sit (or stand) by the wayside of the street and beg for whatever money that a merciful traveler might be inclined to throw his way.
His plight becomes even more unbearable by the question of the disciples of Jesus in verse 2. "Who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" There was (and still is) this false belief in the world that all sickness and disabilities are a direct result of direct sin. While it is true, that sickness and disability are in the world because of man's fallen nature, a persons sickness or disability are not necessarily caused by that person's (or their family's) direct sin. 
Think about the ludicrousness of the disciples question. Their question assumes the possibility that the blind man's own sin could have caused him to be born blind. How in the world can a baby in the womb (who's doing nothing but growing there) commit a sin? While it is a possibility that the parent's sin (drinking, or drugs, or physically fighting and causing a problem in the womb) could cause a problem with the baby. More than likely, it was simple genetics (something that the disciples- and still many today- didn't understand). 
Jesus' answer makes it clear that not only was it genetic (and not caused by sin), but that it was (gasp) God's sovereign will that the man was born blind. Really? A loving God actually chose for this man to be born with a disability? Yes, according to Jesus in verse 3. 
Some of the situations we find ourselves in are not of our making, but (as hard as they are) they are the perfect will of a loving God for our lives. We may not like or want them, but God wants us there. Our job is to make the best of the situation and survive. 
The blind man here had already proven that he was a fighter. He could have lain down and died in his own pity party. He could've stayed at his parents home and demanded that they feed and cloth him. However, not only did he not do these things, he actually went out into the streets. He endured the public ridicule and scorn and tried to bring in as much of an income as his station in life allowed him to do. 
So what did Jesus do to this man? Did he hug him? No. Did he scream and holler and make a public show of healing him? No. What did he do? He did three things: He spat on the ground, made a mud ball and placed it in the man's eyes, and he sent him on a journey. 
In many places in the world, especially in the middle east, to spit on the ground in front of a person is a very disrespectful act. It signifies how utterly disdainful you find that person. Think about it. God, in human flesh, looked at this blind man and (seemingly) disrespected him. The man was blind. He was not deaf. Many of the religiously pious had surely spat on the ground near him in disgust. Here, Jesus seems to do the same thing! 
Worse yet, Jesus them makes mud out of the spit (so it had to be a fair amount of spittle he used) and rubs the mud into the blind man's eyes. How disrespectful is that? 
Then, Jesus didn't even explain to the man what he was doing. He simply told them man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. Why did the man obey? Why did he not simply wipe off the mud and return to his begging? Why did he not explode at the insult of this supposed prophet? 
The answer, I believe, is found in a) Jesus' reputation as a good prophet (and against the religious elite) and b) the place he was sent. 
First, the word Siloam means "sent". So, the sent one (Messiah) was sending him. This was definitely a step up in the world for him. Noone ever asked him to go somewhere in a good way. Yet, the Messiah did. And, as a side note, another word that means sent is Apostle.        
Second, the location of the pool was by the wall adjoining the kings gardens (Nehemiah 3:15) and would therefore be in the middle of all the "somebodies" of the day. It was probably a forbidden place for beggars. Yet, on this day, at the behest of the messiah, a beggar in ratty clothes would not only go there, but he would bend over and wash the mud and spittle from his eyes. Oh, the shame! Oh, the shock of the elite! I can almost see the man's smile as he headed out to obey the master. 
The man didn't know he was going to be healed. Jesus hadn't told him that. He'd just told the man to go and wash. Surely the thought of a possible beating for obedience entered his mind, but he dismissed it. He'd been beat before. He'd been looked down on before. Why not obey this man who had done so much for people before this? There was nothing in the master's reputation that would cause the man to believe that Jesus intended him ill will. 
So, the blind man obeyed the master. Notice that neither Jesus, nor anyone else, lifted a finger to go and help the man do as he had been told. Notice also that the man didn't ask for help. He simply went and washed in this pool. 
Can you imagine the emotional reaction of the blind man as the mud was washed away? Suddenly, for the first time ever, he could see! I don't know about you, but I'd be shouting to high heaven and dancing a Pentecostal jig! 
What can we learn from this story? 
When God seemingly has turned his nose up at us, even disrespected us, we should obey anyway- trusting in the reputation of our loving Father. He may not seem to be offering us any help for the journey. He may not even tell us the reason for the journey. But, when we obey him and reach the end of our journey, the miracle that occurs is far better than anything we have ever imagined! 
It doesn't matter what others think. It only matters what God thinks. In spite of the appearance. In spite of the seeming disrespect. Regardless of the lack of help from others. Always obey the orders of the master. When we do, we will find healing, mercy, and joy.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

How is our "Infiltration Capacity?"

Infiltration Capacity: the maximum rate at which a soil in a given condition will absorb water.

As I was studying for my geography exam today, I came across this term. It felt as if the Lord tapped me on the shoulder and asked: "What is your infiltration capacity?"

Of course, I wasn't sure what he meant. So he proceeded to remind me of the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20). In this parable, there are four types of ground the seed (the word) is sown into. A) The ground by the way side (beside the path or road), B) Stony ground, C) Thorny ground, and d) Good ground. 

The ground by the way side is not cultivated. It is hardened by the walking tracks and animal and human alike, not to mention carts being pulled by animals. Therefore, the Infiltration capacity for this ground is not very high. Not only is it hard to plant a seed there, it is hard for water to get to the seed, so the seed dries out and lays there. Birds come along and take the seed away. There will be no harvest in the ground by the way side. Many hearers of the word are barely fazed by it, before the enemy is able to strip that holy seed from their minds. 

The Stony ground has a little bit higher Infiltration capacity. After all, water can get caught between the rocks and soften the ground. The seed can even land there and begin to take root. However, due to the rocky soil, the plant that the seed produces has a very hard time seeing the light of day. It's hard for a plant to push its way through the rocks. Not to mention that rocky soil, because of the rocks mixed in with the soil, tends to be shallow. One good rain and many young plants are simply washed away to die. A few people may make it through their stony ground- very few.

The Thorny ground has a still higher Infiltration capacity. After all, the ground below the thorny plants is loose enough for a seed and can accept water when the rains fall. But, when the plant begins to grow, it finds itself being choked out by the thorns it grows underneath. Most people who make a start and fall away are in this category. The cares of this life choke out the seed of life. What cares? Riches, fame, materialism, parties, daily needs, housing, their next conquest, etc. The list goes on and on. 

Then there's the good ground. Good ground has been tilled, breaking up the hard fallow surface. Good ground has had the rocks and thorns removed. This ground has a high Infiltration capacity. Water soaks right in to aid the growth of the seed into a strong, fruitful plant. These people almost all will make heaven. 

Then, Jesus makes another amazing inference that can lead to a more modern definition for "Infiltration Capacity:" And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?"(verse 21)

When a candle is lit, the light infiltrates the darkness around it. Is our light shining? Are we blending in to the darkness around us, or do we stand up against the darkness and allow the light of Jesus to shine forth? How far into the lives of others can the Jesus within us infiltrate? Are we hiding his light under a bushel by trying to blend in and go with the flow? 

In another chapter, Jesus says we are the salt of the earth, but that salt is no good and is trampled by the worlds feet is it has lost it's saltiness. Why is the world slipping further and further into darkness? Why are the worlds voices rising up against us and the God we stand for? 

We, the church as a whole, have by and large ceased being that salt. We've stopped being the light. Our good ground has grown fallow, hard, and filled with rocks and thorns. We, as his people, need to repent and return from whence we have fallen! Then, and only then, will we be able to have the capacity to infiltrate the world around us and effect it for the good.  

Lord, please help us to become ground that you can infiltrate with the water of your word. Please allow us to live in such a way that your light can shine through and infiltrate and effect the darkness around us. 

In Jesus name!